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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Volume 9, Number 5 July 31, 2008     

Sleek little Ryan is a world traveler
By Randy Dufault

Gary Kozak’s immaculate 1940 Ryan STM-S2 harkens back to those golden days of aviation when open cockpits and silk scarves dominated the skies. Photo by Dave Higdon

Gary Kozak remembers seeing pictures of the Ryan ST as a child and, like many, dreamed of having one some day.

"I can’t remember how old I was when I first saw a picture, but you can’t help but love the lines," Kozak reminisced.

When in 1998 he was finally in a position to acquire one, Kozak, with agreement from his wife, went on a hunt to find an example of the sleek-looking Ryan.

The airplane Kozak finally found is actually a 1940 STM-S2 version (the M designation indicated military) of the two-place, open-cockpit Ryan. Originally built as one of a group of 13 delivered to the Dutch navy, it started out as a water bird on a set of Edo floats. Because of its water heritage the airplane had extra corrosion protection and a beefier structure, attributes that Kozak is sure have added to the airframe’s longevity.

Indonesia was the first stop for the Ryan when it was new. Shortly after its arrival, the Japanese overtook the area and the airplane was shipped in pieces to Australia. There it served with the armed forces and ultimately ended up in civilian hands. It made it to the United States in 1969, again in pieces, where it was restored to its original glory, albeit with wheels instead of floats.

In all of its travels and all the time that he has flown it, Kozak can document only about 1,000 total hours on the airframe.

“It has remarkably few hours on it,” Kozak said. “The logs are fairly complete, and I suspect there may be some time missing somewhere, but it really is a low-time airframe.”

The STM variant of the Ryan design is now fairly rare. A military version of the pre-war Ryan ST sport airplane, the STM was not considered durable enough for military duty by the U.S. forces. In fact, according to Kozak, the Dutch armed forces were one of the biggest, if not the biggest, export customers for the little Ryan.

Kozak knows of one STM in a European flying museum, one or two in the United States, and a few in Australia. He speculated that the reason so many ended up in Australia was due to so many being shipped there by the Dutch in order to keep the airplane out of the hands of the Japanese.

A version of the airplane was used by the U.S. military as the Ryan PT-22. The PT-22 sported a Kinner radial engine on the nose, a powerplant considered by the U.S. military to be more durable than the Menasco used on the STM.

A longer, wider fuselage and a stouter, wider landing gear also identify the PT-22 version. According to Kozak, both changes help with what he describes as the somewhat “squirrelly” landing characteristics of the STM.

The airplane has been very reliable for Kozak, except for one issue. “I had to replace the engine on it as the original, shall we say, nearly ceased on me,” Kozak said. “This engine is a D47. [An engine builder] out in California that does a lot of the Menascos was building one up. This engine has enclosed rockers instead of exposed rockers, so instead of two quarts of oil an hour spewing all over the airplane, very little comes out now.

“To [switch to the different engine] I had to change the entire induction system. The normal way that you would put the D47 engine in would be to have an air intake on the nose opposite the cooling air intake. Since I didn’t want to mess up this airplane, I didn’t want to bore a new hole in the nosebowl.”

Ultimately a new induction system was built using a no-longer-necessary oil cooler intake. The extensive project did keep the airplane out of the air for two years and resulted in a 13-page FAA Form 337 documenting all of the work.

Kozak bases the airplane at a residential airpark in Brookridge, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. He tries to fly it as often as he can, but he also is cognizant of the historic value of the airframe.

“It’s a nice flying airplane,” Kozak said, but added, “I am fairly cautious on the weather days that I fly because I don’t want to hurt it.”

“It is a typical old airplane, though it sinks faster than you might think,” he added. “For a sleek airplane it comes down like an elevator, especially when you put the flaps down. It also has a narrow fuselage so you can sort of see around the nose, but like any of these airplanes, you really can’t see forward.”

Kozak, who spends his working time in the cockpits of 757s and 767s, also owns a Grumman Tiger. “That’s my year-round airplane,” he said.

Kozak’s STM will stay in the area after EAA AirVenture concludes.

“Wisconsin is such a fun place to fly,” he said. “I plan my vacation so I have some time after AirVenture to spend tooling around Wisconsin. It is so pretty from the air and especially pretty from an open-cockpit airplane. Just need to keep the weather nice for another week.”

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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